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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Agenda about the City Council meeting of June 3, 2014

This Agenda is about the Hickory City Council meeting that took place on the date listed above. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

You will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date. You can also look in the upper right hand corner of the front page of the Hickory Hound and (will soon) find the link to the past history of Hickory City Newsletters.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:

Please remember that pressing Ctrl and + will magnify the text and page and pressing Ctrl and - will make the text and page smaller. This will help the readability for those with smaller screens and/or eye difficulties.

City Website has changed - Here is a link to the City of Hickory Document Center

City Council Agenda - June 3, 2014

 The Hound's Notes:
The Budget was discussed at the last meeting. There is a 2¢ increase in the property tax rate.
Link to City Manager Berry's presentation of the proposed budget for 2014-15

The City Manager and Assistant City Manager are presenting information in what the call Citizen Briefings, below are the Power Point Presentation and two briefing that have already taken place.

Citizen Review - Power Point Presentation 
Ridgeview Citizen Review - Thoughts about the Ridgeview Citizen Review meeting
Citizens Briefing Presentation - 04/29/2014


Invocation by Rev. Antonio Logan, Pastor Friendship Baptist Church

Consent Agenda:
A. Approval of a Resolution Supporting the Extension of North Carolina’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. - The State of North Carolina currently offers tax credits for rehabilitation of historic buildings. This program offers a tax credit of up to 20 percent of rehabilitation costs of an income producing structure, which include commercial buildings and apartments. This credit can be paired with the Federal tax credit for a total tax credit of 40 percent. The State also offers a 30 percent tax credit for rehabilitation costs for non-income producing structures such as private homes. No federal tax credit is available for non-income producing structures. The State tax credits are set to sunset on December 31, 2014 if the General Assembly does not act to extend them. The Historic Preservation Commission considered the resolution at their May 27th meeting and recommends approval. Staff recommends that City Council adopt a resolution supporting the extension of North Carolina’s historic preservation tax credit program.

B. Approval to Write-off Uncollectable Accounts Totaling $280,419.79, in Accordance with North Carolina General Statutes. - North Carolina General Statutes establish all street assessments and property taxes that are over ten years old and are no longer collectable, and should be written off in conjunction with the annual audit. For the current fiscal year (FY2013-2014), there are no street assessments to be written off, but $82,153.73 in unpaid property taxes that exceeds the ten year limitation. The City of Hickory’s Accounting Division requires all other accounts that are over eighteen months in arrears be written off to comply with “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles” in order to more fairly represent financial assets of the City on the balance sheet. For the current fiscal year, this amount is $198,266.06. The Finance Division will continue to pursue collection of the debts. All eligible accounts over $50 are submitted to the North Carolina Debt Setoff Program for collection. As of May 7, 2014, the City of Hickory has collected $50,451.90 from the garnishment of North Carolina State tax refunds and North Carolina State lottery winnings during this fiscal year. Staff recommends approval to write-off uncollectable accounts for Fiscal Year

C. Resolution – Cancellation of July 1, 2014 City Council Meeting. - Be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Hickory that the regularly scheduled City Council Meeting for July 1, 2014 be cancelled. (This meeting in July has traditionally been cancelled by the City Council.)

D. Approval of a Resolution to Declare Surplus Personal Property. - The City has a 2002 Freightliner JetVac Tanker Truck that is no longer of service to the City and request that this property be declared surplus by City Council. In accordance with G.S. 160A-270 for auction of personal property and local policy for surplus property valued above $30,000 the approval and declaration of surplus by Council is required before public auction of the item can be performed. In addition a ten day public notice will be published in the newspaper before the auction takes place. The preliminary estimated value of the tanker truck is $50,000.

E. Approval of a Resolution supporting an Application to the Local Government Commission for its Approval of a Financing Agreement for the Hickory Metro Convention Center Parking Deck. - The Hickory Metro Convention Center is owned by the City of Hickory, but operates under the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) board. The Convention Center is self-supported by event revenues and the hotel occupancy tax collected in Hickory and Conover. The six percent occupancy tax is collected by the City of Hickory and remitted back to the TDA to operate the Convention Center. In order for a local government in North Carolina to finance a project, approval is to be obtained from the Local Government Commission (LGC). The LGC requires City Council’s approval of a resolution prior to the LGC”s approval of the financing agreement application. Staff recommends Council approval of the resolution supporting an application to the LGC for the Hickory Metro Convention Center Parking Deck.

F. Approval of Service Agreement for Federal Legislative and Grant Services provided by Marlow and Company. - Marlow and Company staff provides support for the city of Hickory at the Federal level through grant writing and submittal assistance, organizing Congressional delegation visits in Washington, DC and assistance with issues that affect Hickory at the Federal level. Staff requests approval of the service contract for Marlow and Company for 2014-2015 in the amount of $3,750 per month for federal government consulting and grant writing services. This is the same price as the original contract five years ago.

G. Cemetery Deed Conveyance for Dale K. Cline, and wife, Brenda K. Cline. - Dale and Brenda Cline purchased four plots in Oakwood Cemetery on May 30, 1995. The Clines now desire to convey to themselves combining the four plots into two plots. They have expressed several reasons for this request. First, they have stated that they possibly want to have headstones placed on the unused portions of the plots. Second, they said they want to combine the plots due to their concern that the City will enforce Article X. Section 32.1 of the Code of Ordinances.

H. Budget Ordinance Amendment Number 25.
1. To budget a $250 Youth Council Grant from the State of North Carolina. The funds are for Youth Council activities.
2. To budget a total of $8,167 ($7,567 Rec. Special Activities and $600 Donations) in the Parks and Recreation Departmental Supplies line item. Funds are for the 2014 Senior Games Registration and Sponsorships.
3. To budget an $80 Library donation from the Sherman Alexie book signing in the Library Programming line item.
4. To budget a $46 Library donation from the John Hart book signing in the Library Programming line item.
5. To budget a $350 Library donation from the Friends of the Library for Adult Summer Reading prizes.
6. To budget $25,500 of Hickory Kiwanis Foundation Donations in the Parks and Recreation Improvement to Facilities Capital line item. The funds are for use in the construction of a new tree house for Zahra Baker All Children's Playground at Hickory Kiwanis Park.
7. To appropriate $7,470 of Insurance Claim to the Fire Department's Non-Asset Inventory line item. This claim is for damages to two SCBA packs that occurred on 5/2/14 when the two air packs were damaged during a mutual aid incident. The check was issued from Argonaut Great Central Insurance Company on 5/13/14 and deposited in Insurance Claim on 5/16/14.
8. To appropriate $46,263 of General Fund Balance to the Airport Aviation Rent line item. This transfer is to cover revenue losses at the Hickory Regional Airport due to the City's former FBO Operator being in default of their lease agreement on a hangar located at the Airport.
9. To appropriate $125,000 of Proceeds from Financing and budget in the TDA Parking Deck Project. This appropriation is for the design and GEO technical work.
10. To transfer a total of $34,000 of General Fund Contingency to the Unemployment Insurance line items in the Recycling, Fleet, Stormwater and Airport budgets. The transfer of funds is to cover a one-time insurance cost mandated by the State of North Carolina.
11. To transfer a total of $62,000 of General Fund Contingency to the Fuel line items in the Fire, Recycling and Residential Sanitation budgets. The transfer of funds is to cover fuel costs for the remainder of the fiscal year.
12. To adjust the Hotel Motel Occupancy Tax Revenue and Expenditure line items by $85,000 to reflect anticipated occupancy tax revenue.

I. Grant Project Ordinance Number 6.
1. To decrease the Windridge Bridge replacement project design line item by $152,800 of Federal ($114,600) and State ($38,200) Revenue. The Grant Project Ordinance is replaced with Capital Project Ordinance Number 7.

New Business - Public Hearings
1. Voluntary Satellite Annexation of 1218 Bugle Lane. - Mr. Jeremiah Turbeville, and wife Tanya Turbeville have submitted a petition for the voluntary satellite annexation of .479 acres of property, located at 1218 Bugle Lane. The petitioners are requesting annexation in order to connect to the City of Hickory’s sanitary sewer system. This public hearing was advertised on May 24, 2014 in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area.

2. City Manager’s FY2014-2015 Recommended Annual Budget. - Pursuant to NC General Statutes §159-12(b), a public hearing shall be held before adopting the budget ordinance. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on May 24, 2014. Copies of the budget ordinance were filed for public inspection in the Office of the City Clerk, Patrick Beaver Memorial Library and Ridgeview Library. The recommended budget is also posted on the City’s web page, Pursuant to NC General Statutes §159-13(a), the City Council is required to adopt a balanced budget before July 1, making the appropriations and levying
taxes for the budget year. The City Manager recommends adoption of the attached budget ordinance for Fiscal Year 2014-2015.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Mack McLeod, Presentation of Zahra’s Tree House. - As part of the City’s fully-accessible Zahra Baker All Children’s Playground, a tree house was conceived to add tremendous value to the facility at Kiwanis Park. With the input from both local businesses and civic club, plans for a tree house structure were developed for the park. The proposed tree house will provide opportunities otherwise missed for children at the park. This particular project is a permanent upgrade for the facility and supports a long-term usage of the facility. All funds necessary to construct the tree house are private donations that have been deposited into a City of Hickory donations account. Staff recommends that Hickory Construction Company be awarded a sum of $33,000 for construction of a new tree house structure at Hickory Kiwanis Park as a complete turnkey project to include all permits and inspections.

2. Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant for Holbrook Landscaping for Property Located at 2146 Highland Avenue. - Holbrook Landscaping, LLC has applied for a Vacant Building Revitalization Grant in the amount of $30,000 to assist in the renovation of a former mill building located at 2146 Highland Avenue NE. The applicant plans to renovate the facility for use for a landscape contracting business. The applicant plans to invest approximately $230,000 in real property improvements to rehabilitate the industrial building. The Business Development Committee reviewed the application and recommends approval.

3. Citizen Briefing - The City Manager and Assistant City Manager Andrea Surratt are briefing
citizens as neighborhoods, businesses, civic and general public meetings about the City’s plan for growing jobs and population. The Manager will provide this same briefing to Council and the residents in attendance.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Economic Relevance - the Middle Class Squeeze

Marketplaces are about people and the majority of people are struggling. The Great Recession only ended for the affluent. It never ended for the middle class as defined in the post World War 2 to the Millennium era.

Excluding Obamacare, US Economy Contracted By 2% In The First Quarter - Tyler Durden - May 29, 2014 - As if the official news that the US economy is just one quarter away from an official recession (and with just one month left in the second quarter that inventory restocking better be progressing at an epic pace) but don't worry - supposedly harsh weather somehow managed to wipe out $100 billion in economic growth from the initial forecast for Q1 GDP - here is some even worse news: if one excludes the artificial stimulus to the US economy generated from the Obamacare Q1 taxpayer-subsidized scramble, which resulted in a record surge in Healthcare services spending of $40 billion in the quarter, Q1 GDP would have contracted not by 1% but by 2%!

Hound Note: Essentially what we are seeing is that GDP fell by 2% for the first quarter of 2014. That is reflective in the retail numbers we saw earlier this week. Now we are seeing a depression in middle class home sales, while wealthy homes are selling at an increased pace in most major cities. Add to this a 22% increase in the cost of food and not being able to rely on the government to be honest and you will see the mess we are in.

Housing Bubble 2 Already Collapsing for the 99% - The Testosterone Pit - May 28, 2014 -
This is precisely what shouldn’t have happened but was destined to happen: Sales of existing homes have gotten clobbered since last fall. At first, the Fiscal Cliff and the threat of a US government default – remember those zany times? – were blamed, then polar vortices were blamed even while home sales in California, where the weather had been gorgeous all winter, plunged more than elsewhere.                      Then it spread to new-home sales: in April, they dropped 4.7% from a year ago, after March's year-over-year decline of 4.9%, and February's 2.8%. Not a good sign: the April hit was worse than February's, when it was the weather’s fault. Yet April should be the busiest month of the year (excellent brief video by Lee Adler on this debacle).                        We have already seen that in some markets, in California for example, sales have collapsed at the lower two-thirds of the price range, with the upper third thriving. People who earn median incomes are increasingly priced out of the market, and many potential first-time buyers have little chance of getting in. In San Diego, for example, sales of homes below $200,000 plunged 46% while the upper end is doing just fine. But the upper end is small, and they don’t like to buy median homes [read… Housing Bubble 2 Veers Elegantly Toward Housing Bust 2]                           Yet it’s going according to the Fed’s plan. Its policies – nearly free and unlimited amounts of capital for those with access to it – have created enormous wealth in a minuscule part of the population by inflating ferocious asset bubbles, including in housing. But now electronic real-estate broker Redfin has made it official: in 2014 through April, sales of the most expensive 1% of homes have soared 21.1% year over year, while sales in the lower 99% have dropped 7.6%.                         And it wasn’t the first year. In 2013, sales of 1%-homes jumped 35.7%, while sales of the other 99% rose 10.1%. And in 2012, sales of 1%-homes rose 17.5%, while the rest of the market inched up a mere 2.9%.

Our “Make It Look Good” Economy Has Failed - Washington's Blog -  - Charles Hugh SmithThe essence of the U.S. economy is make it look good: never mind quality or long-term consequences, just make it look good today, this week, this month, this quarter: make the pink slime look like meat, make the company look profitable, make the low-quality product look good enough to close the sale, make the unemployment rate low enough to justify re-electing the toadies currently in power, make the body count of bad guys look good, and on and on–just makes the numbers look good now, the future will take care of itself...

U.S. Food Inflation Running at 22% - Breitbart - Chriss W. Street - May 26, 2014 - After five years of the federal government telling the public that despite a $3.5 trillion increase in monetary expansion, the inflation rate is below +2%, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) just warned the American public that the consumer price index for food is up by 10% this year.                           The DOA tried to blame food inflation on the drought conditions in California, but last year’s drought was worse and food prices fell by -6%. The real problem is Federal Reserve monetary stimulus is stimulating inflation. I reported in "Food Price Inflation Scares the Fed” two months ago that commodity food costs were exploding on the upside. Given the lag in commodity costs impacting prices on grocery store shelves, annual U.S. food inflation is now running at +22% and rising.

The real culprit for food inflation is the $940 billion of additional monetary stimulus from the United States Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing over the last twelve months. Inflation has been in hibernation for a long time, but it is wide awake now....

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thoughts about the Ridgeview Citizen Review meeting

Disappointing to see how few people in the Ridgeview community showed up for the "Citizen Review" that occurred on Tuesday. If they don't care about their community, then why should anyone else? Let's go back and look at how few people in Ridgeview have even bothered to vote in Hickory City elections, but will show up to vote in the national elections. That is the reason why Ridgeview falls behind, because they have chosen to be politically irrelevant... and they will continue to get what they want.

The majority of people who attended were ministers from inside and outside the Ridgeview community. They all seemed very enthusiastic about what has been presented so far. The ministers in the area that I have seen are very much hooked up with the Hickory Inc. structure. I interpreted what they were saying as that they were all in and going to work with the city and help sell this to their congregations.

There are still no specifics as to the 3Ps -- projects, priorities, and price. City Manager Berry has said that the City Council will prioritize the projects and the Bond Referendum will be broad and refer to categories such as "Business Park" and "Transportation" with monetary values attached to each, but the City Council will be the entity that decides on the projects and the priorities.

Last week the Mayor talked about the tipping point in this community and the reason why we need to act. I've told you and shown you that we are past the tipping point. Maybe we aren't past the tipping point for the Council, the local Powers that Be, or the upper echelons of Hickory City Staff. These people are in the upper 10% of wealth holders in this community. They cannot fully relate to the negative economic momentum that the people at lower income levels have dealt with.

Citizen Review - Power Point Presentation

Just The Facts about Hickory's Loss of the Younger Demographic: Mr. Berry is showing graphs that were available five years ago that show the job losses and the devastating losses in the younger demographics that we have seen in this community over the past decade. Also factor into this that we have the lowest Per Capita Income of any major Metro area in the State of North Carolina. The encouraging sign is that the local Powers that Be are starting to freak out about the signs. The signs have been there for years, but I guess they have finally come to the realization that we have structural problems in this community and this downturn is not part of a normal economic cycle.

Hickory Area Population Remains at a Standstill. There are at least 4,000 fewer (January 2013 numbers) people living in Catawba County today than were here in 2009. We know that the eastern part of the county (Sherrills Ford and West Denver) has grown, because of it's accessibility to Charlotte. So, if the area there has grown by 4,000 or 5,000 people, then what does that mean for western Catawba County? It means that we have lost several thousand people here and it will soon be reflected in the numbers. We are beyond the tipping point. 

The 1764 Business Park project is the type of economic investment we need to see. Mr. Berry talked about this business park being located at Robinson and Robinwood Roads over in the Startown Road area near CVCC and the Mall area. This type of Commerce Center can bring good paying jobs. These types of jobs can help with the underemployment issues we have been facing in this community.

If we are going to see the younger demographics come back into the community, then we are going to have to see these good paying productive jobs come to the community. The demographic structure of the community is not going to change because young people move here to be servants for Octogenarians. There is no money in that, but for a few doctors, some nurses, and a few administrators. They are going to move here if they can find stability and a career path created by complex industries.

The two main infrastructure project concepts that have been talked about are the Mainstreet Linear Park and the Lake Greenway at Geitner Park. The development at Geitner Park is already moving forward thanks to Bob Lackey and it is notable because we are seeing true public private development. The Mainstreet Linear park is pie in the sky. It is basically a $27 million dollar (the price mentioned late last year) sidewalk to connect Union Square to what has been defined before as the Wingfoot District and then up to Lenoir-Rhyne. There is already a sidewalk there and people use it all the time. It just seems that we are once again throwing Hickory Tax Dollars to the same ole group of people.

Make no mistake, most people aren't against infrastructure improvements. What they want to see are tangible benefits and mechanisms of accountability and fairness to ensure that we don't throw good money after bad in an effort that only benefits a few people. Every one of these cities that the Council has been to and touted have "Business Improvement District" Taxes for their Downtown areas. Why are Hickory citizens from the outskirts of town supposed to continue supporting Union Square through tax dollars, when about five people own the vast majority of property surrounding Union Square?

I've heard it bandied about by the oldsters here that support the proposed bond referendum that they are planting trees that they may never get a chance to sit under. Some of us view it as that you are writing checks that others are going to have to cover for you and there may not be money to cover those checks when the bills come due... but ain't that Amerika.

A marketplace is all about people. I have also heard the notion of marketing Hickory as a small town. Folks, that is what got us here. That was exactly what they were pushing in the early 2000s, when the goose got cooked. I don't like the idea of a Quaint Hickory. I want to see a Hustling-Bustling Hickory like we were 20 years ago. Hustling and Bustling people in a contemporary reality. That is what leads to growth.


Steve Ivester and Harry Hipps have talked about developing clusters around our existing industries. Any economic development we see should center around development of Cluster Industries in our area. Harry gets it right in what he writes below:

Harry Hipps speaks about The Gallup-Healthways Survey

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

20140527 - Inspiring Spaces - Ridgeview Citizen Review

City Manager Mick Berry speaks about the Inspiring Spaces program and the proposed upcoming bond referendum. I'm not going to comment tonight. If you have any comments send them to

I will give my thoughts tomorrow. I'd like to hear what some of you think and I will be speaking with my go to guys as usual.

Citizen Review - Power Point Presentation

Economic Relevance - Retail Deathtrap

Hound Notes: This is what happens when you destroy the middle class and thus the market place.

- The Burning Platform - May 25, 2014

Retail store results for the 1st quarter of 2014 have been rolling in over the last week. It seems the hideous government reported retail sales results over the last six months are being confirmed by the dying bricks and mortar mega-chains. In case you missed the corporate mainstream media not reporting the facts and doing their usual positive spin, here are the absolutely dreadful headlines:

Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%

Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%

Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%

JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter

Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%

Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%

Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores

Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall

American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores

Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%

Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%

Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%

Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%

Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate

McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%

Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster

TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat

Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet

Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%

Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat

Monday, May 26, 2014

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- May 25, 2014

The Solution To Record Meat Prices: The Return Of Pink Slime - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - Mat 25, 2014 - According to the USDA, reported by Reuters, conditions in California could have "large and lasting effects on U.S. fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices," as the most populous U.S. state struggles through what officials are calling a catastrophic drought. Alas, the USDA had nothing to say about the Fed's unprecedented desire to reflate the US economy which is still suffering from the catastrophic depression which started nearly 7 years ago.
The consumer price index (CPI) for U.S. beef and veal is up almost 10 percent so far in 2014, reflecting the fastest increase in retail beef prices since the end of 2003. Prices, even after adjusting for inflation, are at record highs.                          "The drought in Texas and Oklahoma has worsened somewhat in the last month, providing further complications to the beef production industry," USDA said.                    Beef and veal prices for the whole of 2014 are now forecast to increase by 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent, a sharp advance from last month's forecast for a 3 to 4 percent rise. Pork prices are set to rise by 3 percent to 4 percent, up from a 2 to 3 percent advance expected a month ago.                       The USDA said overall U.S. food price inflation for 2014, including food bought at grocery stores and food bought at restaurants, would rise by 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent in 2014.                      That is up from 2013, when retail food prices were almost flat, but in line with historical norms and unchanged from April's forecast.                          "The food-at-home CPI has already increased more in the first four months of 2014 then it did in all of 2013," USDA noted. At-home spending accounts for about 60 percent of the U.S. food CPI.

The Social Cost of GMOs — Paul Craig Roberts - May 22, 2014 -
Monsanto has reduced the measured cost of food production by producing genetically modified seeds that result in plants that are pest and herbicide resistant. The result is increased yields and lower measured costs of production. However, there is evidence that the social or external costs of this approach to farming more than offsets the lower measured cost. For example, there are toxic affects on microorganisms in the soil, a decline in soil fertility and nutritional value of food, and animal and human infertility.
When Purdue University plant pathologist and soil microbiologist Don Huber pointed out these unintended consequences of GMOs, other scientists were hesitant to support him, because their careers are dependent on research grants from agribusiness. In other words, Monsanto essentially controls the research on its own products.
In his book, Genetic Roulette, Jeffrey M. Smith writes: “Genetically modified (GM) foods are inherently unsafe, and current safety assessments are not competent to protect us from or even identify most dangers.” The evidence is piling up against such foods; yet the US government is so totally owned by Monsanto that labeling cannot be required.
Pesticides damage birds and bees. Some years ago we learned that ingestion of pesticides by birds was bringing some species near to extinction. If we lose bees, we lose honey and the most important pollinating agent. The rapid decline in bee populations have several causes. Among them are the pesticides sulfoxaflor and thiamethoxam produced by Dow and Syngenta. Dow is lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency to permit sulfoxaflor residues on food, and Syngenta wants to be able to spray alfalfa with many times the currently allowed amount of thiamethoxam.
As the regulators are more or less in the industry’s pocket, the companies will likely succeed in their efforts to further contaminate the food of people and animals. The profits of Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta are higher, because many of the costs associated with the production and use of their products are imposed on third parties and on life itself.
Many countries have put restrictions on GMO foods. Lawmakers in Russia equate genetically engineered foods to terrorist acts and want to impose criminal penalties. The French parliament has approved a ban on GMO cultivation in France. However, Washington lobbies foreign governments on behalf of its agribusiness and chemical donors. Dick Cheney used his two terms as vice president to staff up the environmental agencies with corporate friendly executives. Just as the political appointees at the SEC would not let SEC prosecutors bring cases against the big banks, environmental regulators have a difficult time protecting the environment and food supply from contamination. The way Washington works is that the regulators protect those they are supposed to regulate in exchange for big jobs when they leave government. The economist, George Stigler, made this clear several decades ago.
The public favors labeling of genetically engineered food, but Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association have so far been successful in preventing it. On May 8 the governor of Vermont signed a bill passed by the state legislature that requires labeling. Monsanto’s response is to sue the state of Vermont.

Many U.S. families report feeling strapped - CBS Moneywatch - Alain Sherter - May 22, 2014 - Roughly half of all American families who define themselves as middle class say they are just getting by, struggling financially or feel poor, according to a new study by Allianz. The financial firm, which polled more than 4,500 households with annual incomes of at least $50,000, also found that more than 40 percent of respondents report living paycheck-to-paycheck.                   "The economy is picking up, but it doesn't seem to be trickling down to American families," said Katie Libbe, vice president of consumer insights with Allianz Life, a unit of the company that offers retirement products and services.                           If the sluggish economy is chiefly responsible for that hardship, how families are structured also appears to affect their relationship to money and finances. Less than a fifth of U.S. households today consist of married, heterosexual couples with kids, down from roughly 40 percent in 1970, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while non-traditional family arrangements are increasingly the norm.
Other findings from the study:
  • 36 percent of modern families have collected unemployment benefits, versus 21 percent of traditional households
  • 35 percent of modern families have unexpectedly lost a main source of income, compared with 23 percent of traditional households
  • 22 percent of modern families and 11 percent of traditional households have declared bankruptcy
  • 25 percent of modern families and 20 percent of traditional ones aren't saving any money

Electric bills expected to rise with closing of coal-fired plants - AP through Tulsa World News - May 25, 2014 - Electricity prices are probably on their way up across much of the U.S. as coal-fired plants, the dominant source of cheap power, shut down in response to environmental regulations and economic forces.                New and tighter pollution rules and tough competition from cleaner sources such as natural gas, wind and solar will lead to the closings of dozens of coal-burning plants across 20 states over the next three years.                          And many of those that stay open will need expensive retrofits.                         Because of these and other factors, the Energy Department predicts retail power prices will rise 4 percent on average this year, the biggest increase since 2008. By 2020, prices are expected to climb an additional 13 percent, a forecast that does not include the costs of coming environmental rules.                 The Obama administration, state governments and industry are struggling to balance this push for a cleaner environment with the need to keep the grid reliable and prevent prices from rocketing too much higher.                       "We're facing a set of questions that are new to the industry," says Clair Moeller, who oversees transmission and technology for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which coordinates much of the electric grid between Minnesota and Louisiana.                       Coal is the workhorse of the U.S. power system. It is used to produce 40 percent of the nation's electricity, more than any other fuel. Because it is cheap and abundant and can be stored on power plant grounds, it helps keep prices stable and power flowing even when demand spikes.                        Natural gas, which accounts for 26 percent of the nation's electricity, has dropped in price and become more plentiful because of the frackingboom. But its price is on the rise again, and it is still generally more expensive to produce electricity with gas than with coal. Also, gas isn't stored at power plants because the cost is prohibitive. That means it is subject to shortages and soaring prices.                             During the brutally cold and snowy winter that just ended, utilities in several states struggled to secure natural gas because so much was also needed to heat homes. Some utilities couldn't run gas-fired plants at all, and power prices soared 1,000 percent in some regions.

Sears reports wider loss, may close more stores - USA TODAY - David Carrig - May 22, 2014 -
Sears Holdings reported a wider loss in the first quarter as the retailer continued to struggle to turnaround its business.                   Sears CEO Edward Lampert said the company may also close more stores this year in addition to the 80 locations now being closed.                 The parent company of Kmart and Sears said it lost $402 million, or $3.79 per share, for the period ended May 3. That compares with a loss of $279 million, or $2.63 per share, in the same period a year ago
Excluding certain items, the retailer lost $2.24 per share. That was worse than the loss of $1.91 a share expected by analysts, according to FactSet.                        Revenue fell 6.8% to $7.88 billion, which was better than the $7.72 billion analysts expected.

Target has lost its cheap, chic edge - USA TODAY - Hadley Malcolm - May 21, 2014 - Target may have been knocked down by a huge holiday season data breach last year, but its most recent quarterly earnings report and continuing replacement of top management show the retailer has other, bigger problems to address.                         Target's Canadian expansion has suffered from poorly managed inventory planning and a lack of understanding of the Canadian market. Meanwhile, merchandise even in U.S. stores has lost its gotta-have-it quality, and foot traffic had been slowly declining, even before the breach happened...                       In the first quarter, Target's net earnings fell 16% to $418 million, or 66 cents a share, compared with $498 million in the same period last year, the company announced Wednesday. Sales increased 2.1% over last year to about $17 billion. Earnings related to U.S. stores decreased 13.5% to about $1.1 billion from about $1.2 billion last year.                       For the year, Target cut its estimated earnings per share to between $3.60 and $3.90 compared with prior guidance of $3.85 to $4.15. Brian Yarbrough, an analyst with Edward Jones, suspects that's because the chain plans to be highly promotional to try to get customers back in stores, which will eat into profit margins.

Chattanooga's super-fast publicly owned Internet - CNN Money - James O'Toole - May 20, 2014 - Chattanooga, Tenn., may not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to cutting-edge technology. But thanks to its ultra-high-speed Internet, the city has established itself as a center for innovation -- and an encouraging example for those frustrated with slow speeds and high costs from private broadband providers.                        Chattanooga rolled out a fiber-optic network a few years ago that now offers speeds of up to 1000 Megabits per second, or 1 gigabit, for just $70 a month. A cheaper 100 Megabit plan costs $58 per month. Even the slower plan is still light-years ahead of the average U.S. connection speed, which stood at 9.8 megabits per second as of late last year, according to Akamai Technologies...                           The city had to contend with lawsuits from Comcast and local cable operators as it worked to get the network up and running. But aided by an $111 million stimulus grant from the Department of Energy, the service was up and running by September 2009. The EPB currently has around 5,000 business customers along with 57,540 households, which have access to "triple play" bundles of video, phone and Internet service just like they would from a private provider.                        "Deploying a network for telecommunications is not fundamentally different from deploying a network for power," said Benoit Felten, a broadband expert with Diffraction Analysis. "Chattanooga is the prime example of that, and it's absolutely worked."                              The Federal Communications Commission recognizes the potential of muncipality-run broadband, saying earlier this year that it will push for the repeal of state and local laws supported by the cable industry that make it harder for cities to set up their own networks.                          Chattanooga officials say the network has helped spark a burgeoning local tech scene and the relocation of a number of businesses, drawn by both the fast Internet and the reliability offered by the smart grid.                            Hunter Lindsay, regional director of IT services firm Claris Networks, said the 85-person company moved its data-center operations from Knoxville to Chattanooga "just because of the network."

Economic Relevance - Inflation in commoditoes + Deflation in property = the Great Reset - The Hickory Hound - May 23, 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 20, 2014

I began video recording the City Council in 2012, because of my desire that the City do it on their own as any modern 21st century community began doing long ago. I had people tell me that they couldn't make it to the meetings, but they would like to see what is going on. I was also told by some council members that my summaries did not truly reflect the record, so having a video/audio recording cannot be misinterpreted.

So below is the City Council meeting. With each agenda item, you can click on the links and it will take you to that specific point in the meeting. You can always drag the marker on the video display to the point in the broadcast that you are interested in seeing.

Agenda about the City Council meeting of May 20, 2014

Inspiring Spaces Committee Final Report 

Thoughts about last night's Hickory City Council meeting - May 20, 2014

 The Hound's Notes: 

There are a couple of things about the Inspiring Spaces presentation that took place before the City Council meeting. First, Meg Locke went right to the point when she articulated her unrequited trust of Hickory Inc. Ms. Locke is a Hickory insider and Hickory Inc. has done more for her than they haven't. There aren't many people in this community that can say that. We'd like to live in Ms. Locke's world for a day. That doesn't mean that we are jealous. We'd like to trade shoes for perspective.

Some of the Inspiring Spaces projects might be ok, but I'm not so sure I'm as trusting as she is based upon Hickory Inc.'s track record. City Manager Berry made it clear that the bonds would be for a list and not specific projects and timetables. Hickory Inc. will be setting the priorities and the objectives. Just remember "the Sails" and the Farmer's market sit outside Ms. Locke's business on Union Square and now we are supposed to build a $27 million sidewalk to her other business at Hollar Mill. That is where her perspective lies. How many of us are on committees that can make decisions where community interests can be entangled with our own?

Look at what we see with this committee, lots of connections to one another and the City Council. Also, lots of wealth on this committee compared to most Hickory citizens. Can these people relate to your average Hickory citizen? What a few hundred dollars means to them is completely different from what it means to most.

Another point, I don't see how they can claim that the widening of LR Blvd led to the private investment at Hollar Mill or Moretz Mill. Yes, Hollar Hosiery was redeveloped, but no one ever said that they were waiting for that road to open before moving forward with its renovation.  Let us also remember that with the "Economic Incentives" that the city has outlayed to these projects, it will be a few years before they "increase the tax base." Two properties, Piedmont Wagon and Lyerly Mill will be paying no City of Hickory Property Tax for seven years, so they are definitely not increasing the tax base. If our overall tax receipts don't rise, how can it be claimed that this was an increase as opposed any normal remodeling/developing that occurs?

Yes, we are glad to see these properties renovated and yes, we hope for their success; but we should not focus city dollars in one small part of the city, while continuing to ignore the others. I'm all for this Wingfoot area continuing to move forward in association with a redefined Downtown. That is the reason why I think a Business Improvement District Tax for the newly redefined Downtown is the way to go to raise the monies necessary to do what the property and business owners of that area want to do in that area.


Invocation, Susan Smith, Exodus Homes

Special Presentations
A. Business Well Crafted Award to Mark Romeo, Cox Manufacturing

Persons Requesting to Be Heard
A. Dan Green, In House Counsel for Meridian Senior Living, Information Regarding a Golf Tournament for National Alzheimer’s Awareness. - (per Hickory Inc.) - Mr. Dan Green presented information to City Council regarding “A Round to Remember”, a golf tournament, which is a grassroots program that works to educate people about Alzheimer’s and to raise awareness for those facing the disease. Over five million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and there are 15 million people acting as their caregivers. The golf tournament is being sponsored to benefit Alzheimer’s, jointly sponsored by Conde Nast Media Corporation. The tournament will be held at the Ole Still Golf Club in Oliver’s Landing Section on June 19, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. There are other opportunities for other individuals and entities to be sponsors and donate to the tournament for the benefit of Alzheimer’s. Mr. Green can be contacted for information regarding entry fees and registration.

B. Cliff Moone once again spoke regarding his support of Inspiring Spaces and the City Council. - (per Hickory Inc.) - addressed Council on his support, and encouragement of Inspiring Spaces. He was concerned that Council was in a contemplative mood about this. He stated that the Inspiring Spaces report was an excellent report, very interesting, and very well presented by Mr. Shuford. Mr. Moone commented that when he came to Hickory in 1988, Hickory was really taking off and doing a lot of wonderful things,a lot of growth, and a lot of excitement. In 2002, he had a very mild heart attack and ended up having surgery at Frye Hospital. While he was in the hospital his heart stopped for 15-30 seconds. He was awakened by a nurse slapping him in the face, saying not on my watch you don’t. It reminded him that we have gone through 10 to 12 years of not being dead, for certainly, no this City. But being a City that has been in some ways on life support. He stated that the comment was made not on your watch let this happen, we have an opportunity here. He wants Council to have the May 20, 2014 enthusiasm that Ms. Locke has, moving this thing forward. Because it is up to Council, the leaders of the community, and others to go out and let the folks know the information about how much it is going to cost. He is one of those people that has a house that is just a little over that $150,000 dollar range that is the average home in Hickory. For Council to raise his taxes over that period of ten years, $120 isn’t fearful for him at all. It is something that says I am going to invest in this City for the next 30, 40, 50 years, and after I am gone planting those shades. He read that the fastest growing area in Catawba County is Sherrills Ford. He doesn’t want to see his City left behind. He doesn’t want us to be on this side of 40 falling behind when we can be moving ahead. He asked Council to aggressively go forth, and support the Inspiring Spaces initiative as he will as well.

Consent Agenda

Informational Item
A. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to Raleigh, North Carolina

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Consideration of Amending Chapter 2, Article 8, Youth Council, of the Hickory City Code of Ordinance of the City of Hickory by Amending Sections 2-240, 2-242(a)(c), and 2-245.

2. Voluntary Contiguous Annexation of 1515 Cloninger Mill Road NE, Hickory.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Call for Public Hearing on the City Manager’s FY2014-2015 Recommended Annual Budget. 

The Hound's Notes:
As I stated earlier this budget was Mick Berry and Hickory Inc.'s finest hour during his tenure. By all indications, Hickory Inc. was looking to increase property taxes to help pay for Inspiring Spaces, but somewhere along the way, they changed their mind about how and when to finance it. In my opinion, that was the wisest decision until the public gives it a nod of approval.

The budget City Manager Berry put forth does have a 2¢ increase in the tax rate. Anyone should accept the additional penny for roads and the additional penny for operational costs due to the loss in revenue of the hold harmless monies that have been coming from the State Government. I can't emphasize enough that the action taken on this night is fiscally sound.


General Comments - (per Hickory Inc.)

Mayor Wright commented that he heard Taste of Hickory was great.
Alderwoman Patton confirmed it was. 
Mayor Wright commented record crowds maybe.
Alderwoman Patton stated they did a great job.
Mayor Wright commented that is a good venue for it.
Alderwoman Patton stated that the weather cooperated. They were so afraid that it was going to rain, and the sun came out,and it was beautiful. They did a great job.
Alderman Seaver commented it was a beautiful day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Economic Relevance - Inflation in commodities + Deflation in property = the Great Reset

Devaluation in the value of the dollar is/will lead to a rise in the cost of living through a rise in the cost of necessary commodities (Food and Fuel) and a deflationary cycle with the value of property and discretionary spending (Housing, Personal Property, Electronics, Personal Assets, Items for Resell). You are going to need money to live, but as the economy slows, you aren't going to want to have anything you don't need to survive and you are going to want to sell things to have additional money to survive, but since most people will be in the same boat, then through excess in suplly and reduction in demand the value of non-necessities will plummet in real value. Anything related to fuel will increase in price. Assets to a great extent can become a burden. A lot of times they will cost more to maintain than they are worth. We have seen that already and will continue to see that with more rapidity.

The Federal Reserve is stuck. If the Fed continues with Quantitative Easing, then the value of the dollar continues to fall until we enter a Hyperinflationary cycle. If the Fed pulls back on Quantitative Easing, then the dollar strengthens, interests rates rise, and we enter a deflationary cycle, which will slow the economy by seizing the credit markets. It will also cost more to service governmental debt and necessitate a debt jubilee (forgiveness), which will lead to the banks in the United States becoming insolvent. The excesses of properties that the banks have on the banks will will devalue, many becoming worthless, which will lead to their insolvency. Their liabilities (debt) versus their assets (properties, loan portfolios and other investments) will grow to such an extent that they will be forced into default. There will be no way to get back to profitability. This was the road we were headed down in 2008.

Quantitative Easing (Artificial Lower of interest rates through Monetary Expansion) helped the banks remain solvent, but did nothing to help the average person maintain their personal wealth, because they did not have access to the increased money supply. The banks have maintained an artificial market, but you can't have a real market without people being able to participate in the marketplace. There hasn't been any velocity to the real marketplace. We have seen a stagnation of the real marketplace since 2008.

The current economic structure in unsustainable. What is necessary is a Great Reset. We will either do so voluntarily or we will be volunteered through natural economic forces, which will be much worse. What the government should have done is helped the public write down the artificial value of equity built into their homes caused by the housing bubble, basically a debt jubilee, which would have given homeowners a 20% reduction in the value of their homes over a specified period (say 10 years), then we would basically have been nearly out of this debt glut caused by the irrational exuberance caused by the excessive marketing, sales, and speculation and artificially low interest rates that occurred in the housing market in the late 1990s and early to mid 2000s. Instead, we are going to have to deal with these issues through the greatest disruption of the American Economic System of a lifetime.


Published on May 18, 2014 John Williams of predicts an explosion of U.S. debt. He says, "All the projections on the budget deficit are based on positive economic growth going forward. With the ongoing contraction, you'll see a much worse budget deficit. It's going to do bad things to the banking system. The Fed is going to be easing, and they'll say they are easing to stimulate the economy; but in reality, they'll be doing this to prop up the banking system. The rest of the world sees this and they don't want to hold the dollar, and they will sell off the dollar. The Fed is going to have to come in and prop up the system until it falls apart."

Published on May 20, 2014 - On the U.S. dollar, renowned financial analyst Charles Nenner predicts, "Timing is our business, and we've always said the dollar is going to collapse in end of 2014.

There are different reasons for this. The government has loans outstanding that are very short term. If interest rates only go up a half a percent, they are already in trouble. Also, the United States doesn't have the power to force a lot (of Treasury bonds) on other countries because the United States has decided not to be a power anymore. So, of course, the dollar goes with it.

Oil is going to be much higher, and inflation is going to start moving its tail. This is the start of inflation. Five years from now, you will see inflation started in 2014. It's not that everything happens in 2014 it's just the beginning. I still do cycles of war and I have been predicting a big war is in the making in 2013. And, when they ask me does it start with a bang, I say no, it starts slowly without us noticing. In ten years, you will look back and see it started in 2013. . . . I still think the big war will come from the Middle East."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

20140520 - Inspiring Spaces Committee Final Report

Stephen Shuford presented the information through a Power Point Presentation. 6 of the 15 members of the Committee were present including Mr. Shuford, Paul Kerchner, Don Norwood, Meg Locke, Scott Mitchell, and Nancy Zagaroli.

Mr. Shuford spoke of the notion of "The Charm of Hickory". Talks about Innovate Catawba Initiative and the idea of "Inspiring" and "Reinventing".

Talks about the Waterfront on Lake Hickory and creating a Riverwalk... about the support of that idea... connecting Geitner Park, the Lackey Conservancy, and the Baseball Stadium. Talks about the cities that Hickory Inc. visited over the last few years.

Talks about Downtown Redefined. Union Square Improvements. Main Avenue Linear Park. Talks about linking pedestrian, bikes, and possibly trolley trails to Downtown, the Riverwalk, and LP Frans Stadium. How do you rout people into the city by directing them through the primary Gateways (I-40 at LR Blvd, I-40 at Hwy 321) and secondary Gateways (Hwy 321 at Old Lenoir Road and Hwy 321 at Hwy 70). He got into Street scapes at LR Blvd, Hwy 70, Hwy 127, 4th Street SW extension, and Old Lenoir Road.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

20140520 - Hickory City Manager's Proposed Budget 2014-15

City Manager Mick Berry proposed a $95.8 million budget for the upcoming fis­cal year. This is a 5.75% increase over last year’s $90.3 million bud­get. A 2¢ property tax rate increase is proposed bringing the rate to 52¢ per $100 assessment. This is the first tax rate increase in 19 years. The rate increase is attributable to road resurfacing issues and operational increase due to loss of "Hold Harmless" ($255,000) revenues coming from the State government.

There is very little natural growth in Hickory City Revenues, which is sales tax revenue and property tax base. This will cost the average homeowner ($151,000) a little over an extra $2.50 per month. May have to utilize the General Fund Balance for Operating Expenses in the upcoming year. $1.4 million General Fund balance has $900,000 designated for capital replacement. You may need the $500,000 left over for operational expenditures.

The Inspiring Spaces initiative was not included in the budget.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thoughts about last night's Hickory City Council meeting - May 20, 2014

In the Chambers

This meeting (the Inspiring Spaces meeting) is all about Union Square. How do we direct traffic to Union Square?
Union Square Union Square Union Square yada yada yada

Wayfinding to Union Square

Who profits?
End of the great Kabuki part 1. Now on to part 2.
Let's  see how this rolls.

2 cent property tax increase does not include Inspiring Spaces.
I repeat Inspiring Spaces not included.


Honestly, this budget was Mick Berry and Hickory Inc.'s finest hour during his tenure. The budget he put forth is fiscally responsible. Anyone should accept the additional penny for roads and the additional penny for operational costs due to the loss in revenue of the hold harmless monies that have been coming from the State Government. I can't emphasize enough that the action taken on this night is fiscally sound.

The talk that should be had with the Inspiring Spaces group comes back to a proposal from, I believe, 2004 -- The Business Improvement District (BID) tax. Businesses in the Downtown area balked on this proposal and so it fell on its face back in 2004. It is understandable why it did, when they (Downtown Business and Property Owners) have constantly gotten monies from the General Fund.  The revenue that would be raised from the "Redefined Downtown" properties BID tax would go directly back into that area and the other areas of Hickory would not be paying for their area. Other BID tax areas could start in the other quadrants should the property owners choose. I also think the Downtown Development Association should be created as a Department with the city. If the City is going to pay monies, and with a BID tax structure, then City Hall should have complete oversight.

The presentation by City Manager Berry was rather short and directly to the point. Inspiring Spaces as a part of the 2014-15 budget was not mentioned. This was very surprising and my sources were wrong, so that makes me wrong about what was going to happen on this night.  I wasn't wrong about what was presented by the Inspiring Spaces group, but I was very surprised when the follow through did not occur.

I was wrong, but happy with the result that no tax would be increased in the name of Inspiring Spaces... and this won't happen until a referendum takes place that will establish whether or not the public wants it. The City needs to come forward with specifics on how to raise the revenues and what the projects will cost. That is all that is being asked for... nothing more, nothing less.

Heading to Kabuki Theater tonight

Opening act begins at 5:30pm at City Hall in Council Chambers. The Inspiring Spaces Committee is meeting together with the City Council.  The purpose of this Special Joint Meeting is the presentation of the Advisory Committee's Final Report for the Inspiring Spaces Project.

The goal here is to make it look like Hickory Inc. has a plan. Last year Mayor Wright, Alderman Guess, and Alder Patton said they were not in favor of raising property taxes for 2013-14, because "we don't have a plan." The real reason was because they were facing re-election in a few months. So here we come to the night when the City Manager will present the upcoming budget for fiscal year 2014-15.. Everybody knows what is going on here. The truth is that they have no more of a plan here than what they had last year.

In my opinion, the Inspiring Spaces presentation is to set up what will take place during the second act, which is the regularly scheduled second meeting of the Hickory City Council for the month of May, in which the City Manager will present the proposed property tax increase for the upcoming year. The Inspiring Spaces meeting is to give you the reasoning for the tax increase and the City Manager is going to reemphasize that reasoning. Truth be told, the City Manager is the one behind, and fully vested in, the reasoning.

I have presumed, based upon information I was given and information provided involving this committee, that the City Manager will be requesting a significant property tax increase for City of Hickory associated properties. The majority of these revenues will be devoted to the Inspiring Spaces initiative.

My cynical side envisions the City Manager asking for a 15¢ property tax increase to 65¢ per $100 and the Mayor and other Council members saying that is too much and pulling back to 10¢, or 60¢ per $100, under the guise that they are protecting residents they know will have a difficult time with such an increase.

That is why I call this Kabuki Theater, because these folks are on the same page going into this meeting. This will be a show like so many manufactured plots we have seen before. They already know what is going down. It will still be entertaining to witness, because this has all the makings of a political drama in the coming months that will make the Referendum on Ward Specific Voting and last year's municipal election look like peanuts.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that no tax should be increased in the name of Inspiring Spaces until a referendum takes place that establishes that it is what the public wants.

The proposed property tax increase coming on Tuesday night - 5/16/2014
Rudy and the City Council want to and will raise your taxes - 11/1/2013
The Complete "Platform for a 21st Century Hickory" - 8/31/2013

Monday, May 19, 2014

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- May 18, 2014

Gas prices shouldn't be high, but are: What gives? - CNBC through USA Today - Javier E. David - May 18, 2014 - Rumors about the demise of U.S. gasoline demand have been greatly exaggerated.                  Until late 2013, most energy observers forecast the world's most reliably gas-guzzling market to consume less fuel this year. What was once thought to be a structural decline in demand, however, has proven more durable than expected.                    As the summer driving season nears, retail gas remains stubbornly lodged near $4 per gallon. According to the Energy Information Administration, gas prices rose for 12 straight weeks through late April, and were 20 cents a gallon higher than the same point last year.              So what gives?              "The world's not swimming in crude or gasoline yet," said Francisco Blanch, commodities strategist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, in an interview. "Despite all the crude and gasoline production in the U.S., international markets are not tagging along."                      International developments matter, analysts say, because gas prices are linked to internationally priced Brent crude. Turmoil in Ukraine and spotty supply from the perennially unstable Middle East has conspired to keep oil above $100 per barrel.

Fed Laundering Treasury Purchases to Disguise What’s Happening-Paul Craig Roberts - USA Watchdog - Greg Hunter - May 14, 2014 - In his latest article, former Assistant Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts says, “The Fed is the great deceiver.”   Why is he making this shocking accusation?   The reason is tiny Belgium’s whopping purchase of $141 billion in Treasury bonds earlier this year.   Dr. Roberts explains, “We know that Belgium didn’t have any money to buy $141 billion worth of bonds over a three month period.  That sum comes to 29% of the Belgium GDP.  So, they don’t have a surplus in their budget that is 29% of their GDP, and they don’t have trade or current account surplus in that amount.  In fact, everything is in the red.  Their budget deficit is in the red, and their trade and current accounts are in the red.  So, Belgium didn’t have the money, and yet, they managed to pick up $141.2 billion in U.S. Treasuries over a three month period.  So, where did they get the money?”  Dr. Roberts, who holds a PhD in economics, goes on to say, “We know their central bank couldn’t have printed euros to buy the bonds with because the Belgium central bank can’t print euros.  Belgium is part of the euro system and has lost the ability to create its own money.  So, the only source for that kind of money would have been the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve thought it needed to hide the fact it was buying $141 billion in bonds over a three month period when it was officially reducing or tapering the quantitative easing down to $65 billion.  It didn’t want to have to admit it was really purchasing $112 billion a month, almost double the announced purchases.”

If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Pure Hell For The United States - Michael Snyder - May 12th, 2014 - Does the economy move in predictable waves, cycles or patterns?  There are many economists that believe that it does, and if their projections are correct, the rest of this decade is going to be pure hell for the United States.  Many mainstream economists want nothing to do with economic cycle theorists, but it should be noted that economic cycle theories have enabled some analysts to correctly predict the timing of recessions, stock market peaks and stock market crashes over the past couple of decades.  Of course none of the theories discussed below is perfect, but it is very interesting to note that all of them seem to indicate that the U.S. economy is about to enter a major downturn.  So will the period of 2015 to 2020 turn out to be pure hell for the United States?  We will just have to wait and see.                      One of the most prominent economic cycle theories is known as "the Kondratieff wave".  It was developed by a Russian economist named Nikolai Kondratiev, and as Wikipedia has noted, his economic theories got him into so much trouble with the Russian government that he was eventually executed because of them...

The Demographic Cliff: How to Survive and Prosper During the Great Deflation of 2014-2019 (2014) - Amazon List - Bestselling author and financial guru Harry Dent shows why we’re facing a “great deflation” after five years of desperate stimulus — and what to do about it now.

Throughout his long career as an economic forecaster, Harry Dent has relied on a not-so-secret weapon: demographics. Studying the predictable things people do as they age is the ultimate tool for understanding trends. For instance, Dent can tell a client exactly when people will spend the most on potato chips. And he can explain why our economy has risen and fallen with the peak spending of generations, and why we now face a growing demographic cliff with the accelerating retirement of the Baby Boomers around the world.                             Dent predicted the impact of the Boomers hitting their highest growth in spending in the 1990s, when most economists saw the United States declining. And he anticipated the decline of Japan in the 1990s, when economists were proclaiming it would overtake the U.S. economy.                          But now, Dent argues, the fundamental demographics have turned against the United States and will hit more countries ahead. Inflation rises when a larger than usual block of younger people enter the workforce, and it wanes when large numbers of older people retire, downsize their homes, and cut their spending. The mass retirement of the Boomers won’t just hold back inflation; it and massive debt deleveraging will actually cause deflation—weakening the economy the most from 2014 into 2019.                  Dent explores the implications of his controversial predictions. He offers advice on retirement planning, health care, real estate, education, investing, and business strategies. For instance . . .
  • BUSINESSES should get lean and mean now. Identify segments that you can clearly dominate and sell off or shut down others. If you don’t, the economy will do it for you, more painfully and less profitably.
  • INVESTORS should sell stocks by mid-January 2014 and look to buy them back in 2015 or later at a Dow as low as 5,800.
  • FAMILIES should wait to buy real estate in areas where home prices have gone back to where the bubble started in early 2000.
  • GOVERNMENTS need to stop the endless stimulus that creates more bubbles and kills the middle class, and should assist in restructuring the unprecedented debt bubble of 1983–2008.

HARRY DENT: America Is Headed Off The 'Demographic Cliff' And Another Crisis Is Near - Business Insider - Steven Perlberg - December 12, 2013
Here are some of his main points:
  • Young people cause inflation because they "cost everything and produce nothing." But young people eventually "begin to pay off when they enter the workforce and become productive new workers (supply) and higher-spending consumers (demand)."
  • Unfortunately, the U.S. reached its demographic "peak spending" from 2003-2007 and is headed for the "demographic cliff." Germany, England, Switzerland are all headed there too. Then China will be the first emerging market to fall off the cliff, albeit in a few decades. The world is getting older.
  • The U.S. stock market will crash. "Our best long-term and intermediate cycles suggest another slowdown and stock crash accelerating between very early 2014 and early 2015, and possibly lasting well into 2015 or even 2016. The worst economic trends due to demographics will hit between 2014 and 2019. The U.S. economy is likely to suffer a minor or major crash by early 2015 and another between late 2017 and late 2019 or early 2020 at the latest."
  • "The everyday consumer never came out of the last recession." The rich are the ones feeling great and spending money, as asset prices (not wages) are aided by monetary stimulus.
  • The U.S. and Europe are headed in the same direction as Japan, a country still in a "coma economy precisely because it never let its debt bubble deleverage," Dent argues. "The only way we will not follow in Japan's footsteps is if the Federal Reserve stops printing new money."
  • "The reality is stark, when dyers start to outweigh buyers, the market changes." It all comes down to an aging population, Dent writes. "Fewer spenders, borrowers, and investors will be around to participate in the next boom."
  • The U.S. has a crazy amount of debt and "economists and politicians have acted like we can just wave a magic wand of endless monetary injections and bailouts and get over what they see as a short-term crisis." But the problem, Dent says, is long-term and structural — demographics.
  • Businesses can "dominate the years to come" by focusing on cash and cash flow, being "lean and mean," deferring major capital expenditures, selling nonstrategic real estate, and firing weak employees now.
  • The big four challenges in the years ahead will be 1) private and public debt 2) health care and retirement entitlements 3) authoritarian governance around the globe and 4) environmental pollution that threatens the global economy.
"You need to prepare for that crisis, which will occur between 2014 and 2023, with the worst likely starting in 2014 and continuing off and on into late 2019," Dent concludes. "You can contribute to the solution by conserving your financial assets and reinvesting them after the crisis." Cheery stuff.

High Frequency Trading And Artificial Bubbles - Harry Dent - May 15, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Agenda about the City Council meeting of May 20, 2014

This Agenda is about the Hickory City Council meeting that took place on the date listed above. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

You will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date. You can also look in the upper right hand corner of the front page of the Hickory Hound and (will soon) find the link to the past history of Hickory City Newsletters.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:

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City Website has changed - Here is a link to the City of Hickory Document Center

City Council Agenda - May 20, 2014

 The Hound's Notes:

*** The issue is the proposed property tax increase coming on Tuesday night that will be part of the City manager's proposed budget.

Here are a some thoughts and questions on the proposed property tax increase as it relates to Hickory Inc.'s Inspiring Spaces Initiative.

Think back to last year, when Mayor Wright was pushing the Prepared Food Tax as the be all end all and all that was needed to fund the Inspiring Spaces projects. Now we know that it wouldn't have covered what they have talked about over the subsequent half a year, since the local municipal election occurred.

Now knowing that the Prepared Food Tax wasn't enough, they were willing to compound the mistake. We would have had this food tax and it wouldn't be covering the cost of Inspiring spaces, so they had every intention of raising your property taxes for Inspiring Spaces all along. What happened to the investments that were supposed to come from the Federal government? the State government? or through the Private sector?... none of that has been talked about recently.

Remember the Farmer's Market project that turned into the Sails project. It started out at $285,000 and within months became a $420,000 project and Hickory Inc. will admit that it is right at a half-million dollar project and we know that more monies have been spent on the structure to maintain and add to it. What if they underestimate the cost of this proposed project. This isn't a small structure like "The Sail's". This is a $40 million bond with ambiguous projects attached. There are still no specifics. We've been down this path before folks.

What if raising these taxes doesn't generate enough money for what is proposed? Hickory Inc. says oops and scales back and does the Linear Park/Sidewalk and whatever they want and you have no choice about it. There are no second chances. It, in essence, becomes the largest slush fund in this city's history; creating, according to the City Manager's numbers above, about $3.6 million per year for Hickory Inc. to spend as they see fit.

Hickory Inc. intends to pass this budget and then they will be holding meetings called "Citizen Briefings" to push the bond referendum. The "Briefing" that is online is long on vagueness and short on specifics. People don't need a pep talk to tell them why this park is a good thing. They need specifics. Tell the people what the projects will cost and what they will have to sacrifice to invest in these projects. They need to understand the trade offs. City Manager Berry and Assistant City Manager Surratt are supposed to be managers not sales people. Elected officials can do that, but that isn't the job of bureaucrats to sell projects. Think about what happened the last time a project was committed to that wasn't fully vetted?

And Guess what? If future economic development does take place, any new businesses looking to come here are going to want additional incentives, like two recent projects where those companies will pay no property tax on their buildings for the next 7 years. So the revenue pie isn't growing, but the outlay/expense pie continues to grow. Companies will expect some form of incentives, which will increase the burden on residents through their property and the taxes they pay on it.

No one is saying that they are against City investments. People are saying that they need specifics, because at the end of the day, the people are the government and the people know what is best for them. The people of Hickory have asked for certain things and have been constantly told NO! Hickory Inc. decides they want something and they grease the skids and manipulate situations. The government is supposed to be the servant of the people and it certainly seems like the view is warped around here.


Special Presentations
A. Business Well Crafted Award to Mark Romeo, Cox Manufacturing

Persons Requesting to Be Heard
A. Dan Green, In House Counsel for Meridian Senior Living, Information Regarding a Golf Tournament for National Alzheimer’s Awareness

Consent Agenda:
A. Special Events/Activities Application for St. Stephens High School Jazz Band, Casey Oakes, Director, St. Stephens High School, May 27, 2014, 4:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Sails on the Square.

B. Special Events/Activities Application for Schmoozapalooza Under the Sails at Tastin’, Tunes & Tomatoes, Lindsay M. Keisler, Senior Vice President, Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, June 12, 2014, 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Union Square.

C. Call for a Public Hearing – Voluntary Satellite Annexation of 1218 Bugle Lane. (Authorize Public Hearing for June 3, 2014)

D. Call for Public Hearing - For the Consideration of a Street Closing Petition for portions of the former Hickory North Crosstown Loop and 13th Street NE, Hickory. (Authorize Public Hearing for June 17, 2014)

E. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs. - The following request was considered by the Citizens’ Advisory Committee at their regular meeting on May 1, 2014:
 Kathy Jeannette Kendrick Higgs was approved for recommendation to City Council for first-time homebuyer’s assistance to purchase a house located at 170 12th Street Court SE, Hickory. She had requested $5,000 for assistance with down payment and closing costs. The First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan is zero interest, no payments and repaid upon sale, refinance or payoff of first mortgage. Funds are budgeted for these items through the City of Hickory’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2012 and/or program income received through the City of Hickory’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

F. Approval to Apply for the 2014 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the amount of $23,359. - Hickory Police Department requests permission to apply for the 2014 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the amount of $23,359. The JAG Program is a formula-based grant through the Office of Justice Programs/Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) that utilizes Uniform Crime Reporting statistics of all law enforcement agencies to determine eligibility for direct federal grant awards. There is no match required.

G. Acceptance of Bid and Award of Construction Contract with Neill Grading & Construction Company Inc., for the Construction of Eastwood Sewer Project. - The Eastwood Sewer Project includes construction of approximately 8,600 linear feet of 8 inch PVC or ductile iron sanitary sewer lines. Eastwood Subdivision is within the existing City of Hickory ETJ, and the City of Hickory does have existing sanitary sewer lines available for connection by the proposed subdivision sanitary sewer lines. Construction of the proposed systems in accordance with City of Hickory specifications will result in negligible increase in maintenance costs for the overall system and will provide for further protection of water quality in the area by potentially eliminating failing on-site septic systems. North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources – State Revolving Fund awarded the City of Hickory a grant to fund construction of this project along with two others previously. Public Utilities requests the project be established with $684,648.82 contract and $32,432.44 contingency for a total of $717,081.26. Staff recommends Council accept the bid and award the construction contract to Neill Grading & Construction Company Inc. for the construction of the Eastwood Sewer Project in the
amount of $684,648.82.

H. Approval of an Agreement for Wastewater Operations between the City of Claremont and the City of Hickory. - Staff requests City Council’s approval of an agreement for wastewater operations between the City of Claremont and the City of Hickory. The proposed agreement details the City of Hickory continuing to provide all services that we currently provide the City of Claremont for operation of their two wastewater treatment facilities, operation and maintenance of five collection system lift stations, operator in responsible charge of the distribution system, and back-up operator in responsible charge services in the collection system. The base fee for this agreement is proposed to be $370,000 per year for operations of the wastewater treatment facilities and lift stations; $13,500 per year for back-up operator in responsible charge of the collection system, and $30,600 per year for operator in responsible charge of the distribution system. These fees will be subject to fee adjustments in the future as approved by the City Council of the City of Hickory for all other public utilities rates and fees. This agreement will be in effect until June 30, 2017.

I. Approve the Transfer of a Cemetery Deed from Nancy L. Isenhour, and husband Larry Isenhour, and Barbara L. Huggins, unmarried to Nancy L. Isenhour,

J. Budget Ordinance Amendment Number 24.
1. To transfer $3,000 from General Fund Contingency to the Professional Services Elections line item. This transfer is necessary to pay the Board of Elections for early voting in the run-off election.
2. To transfer $123,081 of GF-Appropriated-Fund Balance to the Stormwater Capital Improvements line item. This transfer is needed to pay Fenton Rigging & Contracting, Inc. $123,081 for Change Order #1 which includes additional
cleaning of the storm drain and to fully line the pipe under 7th St. SE.
3. To transfer $13,860 of unused funds from the Downtown Canopy project to the Capital Reserve Fund. The final transfer of remaining funds back to the original funding source will close the project.
4. To transfer $9,683 of unused funds from the Radio System Upgrade project to the General Capital Project Fund. The final transfer of remaining funds back to the original funding source will close the project.
5. To transfer $1,008,537 of unused funds from the Northeast Plant Renovation project to the Water and Sewer General Capital Reserve Fund. The final transfer of remaining funds back to the original funding source will close the project.
6. To budget a total of $49,354 of State ($12,338) and Federal ($37,016) revenue in the Water and Sewer Fund Storm Damage Repair line items. These funds are budgeted for miscellaneous FEMA storm damage related to the August storm and flooding event.

K. Capital Project Ordinance Amendment Number 1. 
1. To accept a $1,008,537 transfer of unused funds from the Northeast Plant Renovation project to the Water and Sewer General Capital Reserve Fund. The final transfer of remaining funds back to the original funding source will close the
2. To accept a $9,683 transfer of unused funds from the Radio System Upgrade project to the General Capital Project Fund. The final transfer of remaining funds back to the original funding source will close the project.
3. To accept a $13,860 transfer of unused funds from the Downtown Canopy project to the Capital Reserve Fund. The final transfer of remaining funds back to the original funding source will close the project.

L. Capital Project Ordinance Number 4.
1. To budget a total of $54,307 of State ($13,577) and Federal ($40,730) in the Water and Sewer Capital Construction line item. These FEMA funds are budgeted for damages to the Rock Quarry Sewer Outfall as a result from the August storm and flooding event.

M. Capital Project Ordinance Number 5.
1. To budget a total of $400,000 of State ($100,000) and Federal ($300,000) in the Transportation Storm Damage Repair line item. These FEMA funds are budgeted for damages resulting from the August storm and flooding event.

N. Capital Project Ordinance Number 6. 
1. To budget a total of $195,363 of State ($48,841) and Federal ($146,522) in the General Capital Construction Project line item. These FEMA funds are budgeted for damages to the Pinecrest Drive Culvert resulting from the August storm and
flooding event.

O. Capital Project Ordinance Number 7. 
1. To budget a total of $1,500,000 of State ($375,000) and Federal ($1,125,000) revenue in the General Capital Construction, Design and Miscellaneous Windridge Bridge Project line item. These FEMA funds are budgeted for damages to the Windridge Bridge Replacement as a result of the August storm and flooding event.

Informational Item
A. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, North Carolina League of Municipalities Board Meeting, May 14, 2014 (Mileage Reimbursement $196.64, Meal Per Diem $10.25)

New Business - Public Hearings
1. Consideration of Amending Chapter 2, Article 8, Youth Council, of the Hickory City Code of Ordinance of the City of Hickory by Amending Sections 2-240, 2-242(a)(c), and 2-245. - The Hickory Youth Council is a group of 25 High School students that provide input to City Council, Staff, and other Boards and Commissions on youth issues. Members learn about City government and perform community service projects. Every year the Council receives far more applications than there are open positions on the Youth Council. The Youth Council reviewed the proposed ordinance revisions at their April 14th meeting and recommended approval of five additional Youth Council members. Staff recommends that City Council approve the amendment to the ordinance to expand the Youth Council membership from 25 to 30 members. This public hearing was advertised on May 9, 2014 in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area.

2. Voluntary Contiguous Annexation of 1515 Cloninger Mill Road NE, Hickory. - Mr. Bobby Hedrick, and wife Patsy Hedrick, have submitted a petition for the voluntary contiguous annexation of .3963 acres of property. The petitioners are requesting annexation in order to connect to the City of Hickory’s sanitary sewer system. The property currently serves as the Hedrick’s primary residence.This public hearing was advertised on May 9, 2014 in a newspaper having
general circulation in the Hickory area.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Call for Public Hearing on the City Manager’s FY2014-2015 Recommended Annual Budget. (Authorize Public Hearing for June 3, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers of the Julian G. Whitener Municipal Building. The 2014-2015 Recommended Annual Budget has been distributed to City Council as required by law and is available for review in the Office of the City Clerk, Patrick Beaver Memorial Library and Ridgeview Library.